The Almanac – For their third food distribution of the year, volunteers with South Hills Interfaith Movement were starting to qualify as seasoned veterans.
SHIM teamed up again with Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to hold a drive-through event Dec. 12 in the Bethel Park High School parking lot.
“We do have our folks here from the food bank,” SHIM executive director Jim Guffey said to volunteers prior to the start of the distribution. “They’re here, but we’re going to be running this pretty much ourselves, because they think we’re a good crew. So we’re going to show them right.”
The volunteers proceeded to load vehicles with boxes of produce, dry items and dairy products, continuing Bethel Park-based SHIM’s tradition of neighbors helping neighbors.
Among those providing assistance were groups of family members, such as the Betlers of Mt. Lebanon.
“My father-in-law, Ray, has been volunteering with SHIM a lot lately, and we know that they did the food distribution in July and it seemed like it was a nice success,” Erin Betler said as her husband, Tim, and daughters, Aubrey and Sylvie, joined the box-loading effort. “Our daughters are ages 10 and 7. We like to get them involved in anything right now to give back. So they jumped at the chance to do this, and we’re having a nice time.”
Of course, Ray and his wife, Joneen, were part of the crew, as well.
As the effects of COVID-19 continue to impact food insecurity in the Pittsburgh region, SHIM and the food bank have been working to help South Hills families with their difficulties. Since March, when SHIM began offering drive-through pantries, the 52-year-old nonprofit has experienced a 28% increase in people seeking help with basic needs such as food and financial assistance.
Nearly half of the pantry visitors are new, further illustrating the impact of the pandemic in the suburban communities.
“As long as there is need, we’ll continue to have food distributions and food drives to help those struggling in the community,” Guffey said. “We served nearly 2,000 households at previous food distributions, so we know that families are still hurting.”
SHIM is a human services organization dedicated to improving the lives of people in need across the South Hills. This includes working to reduce the devastating effects of suburban poverty among low-income workers, the unemployed, families, single parents, senior citizens, women and the high concentration of refugee families in its service area.